Will These Four Words Decide the Next Four Years?


Michael Dukakis couldn't escape Willie Horton. John Kerry was a flip-flopper. Al Gore invented the Internet.

All of these memes helped turn elections against these candidates—in Gore's case, by the narrowest of margins. 

When the history of this year's election is written, you might be able to add "binders full of women"—Mitt Romney's self-inflicted meme—to that pantheon of parodies. 

For Romney, the timing couldn't have been worse. As recently as Monday, polls showed the Republican candidate gaining popularity with women—pulling to within 1 percent of President Obama among likely female voters. 

But "binders full of women"—four words out of more than 10,000 spoken during Tuesday night's debate—may reverse that momentum, recasting Romney as a candidate who is hopelessly out of touch with more than half the electorate. 

Democrats shouldn't celebrate too early, though. The snarky humor surrounding "binders" unwittingly reinforces the stereotype of liberals as pretentious smart*sses, which is equally repellent to many on-the-fence voters. 

In today's social-media-driven world, memes form more rapidly than ever, but they fade faster, too. (Can you say Gangnam style?) And the election is still 19 days away.